Luis Enrique doesn’t pull any punches as he outlines vision for Barcelona

New coach says players will have to work hard every day in training and vows team will attack and play attractive football.
Barcelona's new coach Luis Enrique poses on a bench after signing a two-year contract at Camp Nou on May 21, 2014. Albert Gea / Reuters
Barcelona's new coach Luis Enrique poses on a bench after signing a two-year contract at Camp Nou on May 21, 2014. Albert Gea / Reuters

BARCELONA // When new Barcelona coach Luis Enrique was 12 years old, he went to watch local heroes Sporting Gijon with his older brother.

They stood at the back of the cheapest section of El Molinon, enthralled by the vocal ultra fans and their songs. Enrique would take along a Sporting flag made by his mother.

A photograph appeared in a local newspaper, featuring the young fan, his flag and the ultras. Enrique was nervous.

He was not supposed to be seen in such raffish company. Realising that his father was not interested in football and his mother was not likely to miss the offending page, he removed it.

His parents never did realise the company their son was keeping. It did not matter too much – by age 16, he was in Sporting’s first team.

There will be no hiding place now that Enrique is the new manager at Barcelona. The Asturian, 44, was introduced yesterday at Camp Nou, with a montage of him scoring goals for Barcelona and with a song called Everything Shines playing in the background.

The eighth Barcelona captain to rise to the role of team coach, the man known as “Lucho” (fighter) was relaxed during the introduction after signing a two-year deal.

The stresses and strains will come at an indeterminable point in the future, since the fuse of being Barca boss is a short one, but Enrique knows the club well.

He was the lungs of a Barca team, but famed for his strength of character and drive. His former peers at Barcelona have not done too badly in management, either: Pep Guardiola, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are all at the top of their profession, and now Enrique has arrived at football’s top table as Barcelona’s coach.

The man who replaces Gerardo Martino, who in 2013/14 guided the club to their first season in six years without a major trophy, also made clear the kind of football he intends to play.

“My team will attack, we’ll play attractive and effective football – the kind of football that millions across the world have come to love,” he told a packed auditorium. “Which means we need to defend well, too.

“I’ll be laying out my plans to the players and talking to them, so that they take them on board as their own. I don’t think I’ll need to impose very much and bark out orders. We’re in this together, though I’ll be demanding hard work.”

Up to 10 players from Barca’s squad are expected to depart in the summer. Enrique refused to elaborate about the uncertain futures of Javier Mascherano, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas, though he said he strongly believes in youth development and “the door is open to all B players, and all the players in the youth teams”.

“The best thing is enjoying the training sessions and this lovely job we have, getting something out of each day we are at work,” he said. “I’ll be looking for plenty of hunger from the players and they’ll have to show me that everyday.”

Enrique told anecdotes from a playing career at Sporting, Real Madrid and Barcelona, plus management spells at Barca B, Roma and Celta Vigo.

His hair is longer and he wears a heavy stubble these days, but like former teammate Guardiola, he looked well.

The fitness fanatic and ironman regular is in excellent shape and as trim as most of the players he will be coaching.

“This is a very special day,” he said. “We are beginning the building of a new, exciting Barca.”

sports@thenational.ae

Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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